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Overrated/Underrated on the Collegiate Hardwood
by ASA - 03/04/2008
March Madness is upon us and with that comes talks of brackets and teams on the bubble. What are often lost in the shuffle are those teams that have little hope of making the Big Dance but big aspirations of playing spoiler. There are numerous teams out there that arenâ€™t even bubble teams but are playing well enough right now to burst the bubbles of other teams. Here are three that could burst bubbles with three others that could have their bubbles burst:
Virginia â€“ The Cavaliers have spent most of the season at the bottom of the ACC standings but a recent stretch of solid play has them out of the basement. They have gone 3-1 SU in their last four games and have covered five straight contests. Virginia lost by just one at home to now top-ranked North Carolina and lost by just two at Miami. Throw in road wins at Georgia Tech and Boston College and an 18-point home win over NC State and the Cavs are a viable spoiler down the stretch. Their only shot at the NCAA Tournament is winning the ACC Tourney so they have slim hopes of a berth to the Big Dance. That doesnâ€™t mean the Cavs couldnâ€™t pop a few bubbles along the way
Oklahoma State â€“ The Cowboys have gone through a transformation similar to Virginia as theyâ€™ve overcome a slow start to the season to become a potential threat over the next couple of weeks. Oklahoma State was just 2-7 in Big 12 play and 11-12 overall three weeks ago but has rebounded to win five straight games to even its conference mark at 7-7. The Cowboys havenâ€™t just been picking on the conferenceâ€™s weaklings either as theyâ€™ve posted wins over Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor, three teams very like bound for the NCAA Tournament. Wins in its final two regular-season games and a good showing in the conference tourney could propel Oklahoma State to an at-large bid for the Big Dance.
Valparaiso â€“ The Horizon League, as has become the norm, has been dominated by Butler this year. With that domination has loomed a huge shadow over the rest of the conference, including Valparaiso. The Crusaders started to garner some attention after a 10-1 start but a midseason swoon quickly eliminated that attention. They have recovered from that swoon in recent weeks, though. Starting with an overtime Bracket Buster win over Miami (OH), Valpo has run off four straight wins, including a win over second-place Wright State. The Crusaders are 12th in the country in three-point shooting and are capable of going off at any time. That makes them a dangerous squad over the seasonâ€™s final month.
Mississippi â€“ Ole Miss looked like a viable contender in the SEC after starting the season 13-0 and taking Tennessee down to the wire on the road in the conference opener. SEC action has not been good to the Rebels, though, as theyâ€™ve gone just 5-9 SU and 4-10 ATS in conference play. These struggles have left Mississippi on the bubble after appearing like a shoo-in earlier this year. The Rebels have been predictably bad in SEC road games this year but they havenâ€™t been that great at home this year. They are just 2-5 ATS at home against conference foes, losing outright to sub-.500 teams South Carolina and Auburn. Ole Miss is an extremely young team and it appears as though it has hit the wall.
Missouri â€“ Leading-scorer Stefhon Hannahâ€™s off-court issues and subsequent dismissal from the team were well-publicized yet the Tigers remain an overvalued team. The Tigers are 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS since Hannahâ€™s suspension, failing to cover all three games in which they were favored. Not only has Missouriâ€™s offense fallen off without Hannah but its defense has gotten worse as well. The Tigers have twice allowed 100 points in the last nine games and are allowing 79.2 points per game over their last nine overall. Itâ€™s time to realize that Missouri isnâ€™t going anywhere in its current state as an overrated squad.
UW-Milwaukee â€“ Consecutive impressive NCAA Tournament runs during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons have left lasting impressions in bettorâ€™s minds. This is not the same UW-Milwaukee team, though. Bruce Pearl is in Tennessee, players have graduated and the players that have replaced the departed arenâ€™t nearly as good. Injuries and suspensions have left this yearâ€™s edition extremely thin as the roster has been trimmed from 18 to nine. A hard stretch of games in a short period of time has resulted in this team with little in the tank. The Panthers are just 2-7 SU and 3-6 ATS over their last nine and look like theyâ€™re just finishing out the season at this point.